If you haven’t seen Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, stop reading this article right the hell now. We’ll wait.
Oh hey, you’re back! Fantastic film, right? You’re not alone for thinking so. The Verge has called it “DC’s first good action movie.” We’ve described it as “glitter-bombed and bone-crunching” fun, “undergirded by confident—as well as violent—action.” This is the role Margot Robbie was born to play. And while it’s unusual that a movie about Harley Quinn is paving a new chapter of glory for the DC cinematic universe (and not the Justice League, which we’re going to pretend doesn’t exist), we’re here for it.
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The success of Birds of Prey might be an indication that we’re living in a kind of burgeoning Harley Quinn renaissance, which might surprise some, but it’s happening. Enter: the new and ongoing Harley Quinn animated series, which you can watch on DC’s special streaming service DC Universe.
Harley Quinn has a lot in common with the Birds of Prey movie, so you’re not diving into unfamiliar territory. Our heroine (or well, antiheroine, I guess) Harley, after a messy breakup with the Joker, embarks on a new life of criminal living while finding herself and assembling a ragtag team of ne’er-do-wells along the way. But instead of Huntress and Black Canary, we get a lineup of underrated rogue gallery B-listers: Doctor Psycho, King Shark, Clayface, Sy Borgman. Plus one Harley Quinn canonical bestie, the irresistible Poison Ivy.
Imagine, tonally, the kind of shit you’d see on Adult Swim: Rick and Morty levels of gratuitous violence and meta dialogue, and all the Bad Bitch Badassery Birds of Prey gave you. Outstanding voice acting carries this show. Harley Quinn is voiced by Kaley Cuoco, who really levelled up post-Big Bang Theory. Alan Tudyk does a pitch-perfect Joker, equal to Mark Hamill’s legendary work on the character. A strong cast of comedians—Tony Hale, Ron Funches, and Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame—guarantee you’ll be belly laughing every two minutes. As for the art style, you’ll know that DC, while it has faltered on the silver screen, has always done excellent animation, from the old Justice League animated series to fan favorite Young Justice.
It must be unusual to see Harleen Quinzel get a little more spotlight than her puddin’, but the Clown Prince of Crime has been having a rough cultural moment. Jared Leto’s Joker was the biggest punch line of Suicide Squad, and Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal, though heralded as a masterful piece of acting, is hard to appreciate, what with all the edgelords who think Todd Phillips’ film superior to Parasite. (No fighting in the comments, losers.) But the girl’s come a long way from her origins, conceived for the 1992 Batman cartoon and not even coming from the comics.
DC aficionados and comic book casuals alike better watch out for the new clown queenpin of crime.
Photograph from Warner Bros. Pictures